Friday, August 31, 2012

¡Sueños dulces!

Days 35 (Aug 30) and 36 (Aug 31): Mark this glorious date that for the past two nights, I have dreamt in Spanish! This is a huge milestone to prove I'm on my way to thinking in Spanish...if I'm not there already.

The weather has warmed up for now, so I'm going to enjoy this day! 
I hope you all do the same.

Buen día,
Matt

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

¡La vida es una montaña rusa!

"I know you will enjoy the journey, even though there are pockets of unrest for you---may your week be full of unexpected surprises. (good surprises, of course)"

These are the words I read in an e-mail from my Mom before I retired to my bed after an exhaustive Monday after several hours of lecture and swimming. Simply put, my Mom summed up my past month.

I woke up Tuesday and felt like I hit a wall...an emotional wall, not so much being physically exhausted. In other words, I felt like I had run out of gas. The morning was rather routine, but still I was irritated by everything, fed up and I wasn't sure how to escape this sentiment...it amazes me where my mind can wonder in times of reflection.
The morning until I got to school was also quite lonely...but at the same time, I wanted to keep to myself - to think. In a setting where I am in still trying to think like an Argentine, I sometimes need more time to process this constant bombardment of information. Luckily, it has gotten easier over the past month. I also realize I enjoy my time more when I'm busy. For this day, there were other plans in store for me, that I would have never expected.

I got to class promptly five minutes late, which is considered early in this country. After chatting with my peers, my mood was lifted. I had that time to think, but now back to being myself...an awkward social Spanish-speaking butterfly.
I would just like to say that I really enjoy my linguistics course here. The professor is interactive, jokes around, and I'm genuinely interested in the material...probably because it has helped me obtain a greater understanding of my daily interactions with the Argentines (sometimes before I even realize it).
Example: Porteños (the Argentines from Buenos Aires) may come off as impolite because they don't say "por favor" (please in Spanish). Well, it turns out that they have another method of saying please: they use the diminutive (a smaller or shorter version of a noun) to express gratitude. In Spanish for the diminutive, you add "-ito" or "-ita" to the end of the word. In my own experience, someone asked me to pass them a napkin by saying "Una sevilletita" rather than "Una servilleta, por favor." Thanks to my linguistics professor, the language nerd in me understood: sevilletita (little napkin) = sevilleta, por favor (napkin, please).

I would like to mention that their body language/gestures is a whole other challenge. I choose to celebrate each minor milestone. :)

By the time lunch came around, I was the happiest person on Earth...not because I enjoy linguistics, something EVEN BETTER! Pei, a fellow exchange student from UdeSA offered tickets to go see the Tango Dance World Cup Finals. To boot, the tickets were free thanks to the City of Buenos Aires! She had another obligation, so I was more than eager to accept. I went with a classmate from lingusitics, Lu. I was very impatient for the next hour and a half as I waited for class to finish.

The event took place at Luna Park in Puerto Madero, Buenos Aires (smack dab in the middle of the capital.) I had imagined "Luna Park" to be a green, picturesque park with an outdoor ampitheater in which the city of Buenos Aires would house the event. To my surprise, Luna Park is an old boxing stadium that was converted into a performance hall...very nice, but as an English-speaker, I found the name to be misleading.
I felt like I had hit the lottery because I was present for the finals of the Tango Dance World Cup. (I'm still pinching myself to believe it.) To clarify, there were two nights of finals: Monday - Tango Salón, which is the more formal Tango where all competing pairs are on stage simultaneously; Tuesday - Tango Escenario, which is more rehearsed and more of the Dancing with the Stars version of the Tango. Each pair performed individually their own "enriched" interpretation of the Tango. I would consider this to be a more sexy or feisty version of the Tango. I could certainly feel the passion as the dance pairs from all over the world twisted, swept, split, spun, and flipped across the stage to that familiar Tango rhythm.

After nearly two hours of individual performances from the top 20 pairs, there was a short presentation of music, video, and Tango in tribute of some Tango legends, varying from musicians to the dancers themselves. The master of ceremony announced the top 5 pairs ascending to the winners, 1st place. The top five couples were all from Argentina...there are some things that Argentina has the comparative advantage, one of those is rightfully the Tango.
The world Tango champions in the category of Tango Escenario were: Cristian Sosa and María Noel Sciuto from the city of Buenos Aires. To conclude the celebratory evening, the couple flawlessly performed their winning number again. I found each performance to be spectacular, and by the time they announced the winners, I wanted each pair to win. (Not to be diplomatic, but because I was in awe of the dances and couldn't remember which pair was the most striking.--the performances mixed together in my memory.)
Cristian Sosa and María Noel Sciuto
2012 World Tango Champions (Tango Escenario)

Here you can watch the winning performance: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hLIe0R18KRk I would highly recommend taking the five minutes necessary to watch this cultural marvel.

This was definitely one of the best days yet in Argentina. It surprises me the wave of emotions that I experience when I'm abroad...it's like roller coaster - moments where I'm down in the dumps and moments when I'm on cloud 9. They appear in the blink of an eye, but it's this roller coaster that makes the experience so worth it. Well, Mom, I would consider this to be an excellent, unexpected surprise. I was quite chipper and smiley today, thanks to the experience. I shall continue riding the Russian mountain (a literal translation for roller coaster in Spanish, montaña rusa).

Espero que Uds. busquen y encuentren lo mejor de cada día y experiencia.
Sonrisas,
Matt

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Un domingo relajado

I'm come to realize that Sunday should be a day of rest. Adjusting to a new location has literally forced myself to observe this tradition. I caught up on some sleep and went to an asado at a fellow's students house (from the exchange program with UdeSA). I attempted to do some homework. However, I realize I'm in the midst of the semester when I feel like I'm constantly catching up on work. Tonight, I bid farewall to my Argentine sister, Majo. She is working in Spain for the remainder of the year, so after three weeks in Argentina, she had to go back. I'm going to miss her constant positive energy and efforts to help us learn, laugh, and have fun!

Left: Flor (Sebas's girlfriend), Sebas, Matt (me), Majo, Julia, Will, and Chris

Another week of class starts tomorrow. Monday (August 27) marks the 1-month mark of my stay in Argentina. It's hard to believe all that has gone on in the last month! So many memories and looking forward to many more!

¡Qué pasen una buena semana!
Saludos,
Matt

Saturday, August 25, 2012

¡Quiero bailar!

Since I have three days of class, I decided that I will spend at least one day in Buenos Aires, discovering or experiencing something new that this city has to offer...a cultural day of learning if you will. My brother gave me a travel guide of Buenos Aires, so it is a great opportunity for me to become better acquainted with this city. I hope to understand why it is called the Paris of the Americas.

This weekend, Tango was the theme as I went to the World Tango Festival at the Exposition Center (Centro de exposiciones) in Recoleta. For the last two weeks, people have come from all over the world to learn, experience, and compete this passionate dance. Yesterday (Friday), I made it in time to watch the Semi-finals of World Tango Competition. The dance pairs were introduced from all over the world and danced to three Tango numbers in rounds. Watching the professionals gave me a better idea of how to listen to the rhythm of the music and dance according to the beat. It was enriching to watch couples of all ages, shapes, and origins having fun (or at least it seemed like they were having a good time).
Tango Semi-Finals

A few hours later I was "danced-out" and opted to wander the streets of Buenos Aires. I recognized the area, so I knew where I was, even though I plan to invest in a map soon. After walking along the Avenida 9 de Julio (July 9th Avenue) and stopping for lunch, I took in the organized chaos of one of Buenos Aires's busiest intersections: el Obelisco de Buenos Aires (the Obelisk of Buenos Aires). The Avenida 9 de Julio is the widest street in the city (and the world for that matter).
Rush Hour in the World's Widest Street (Avenida 9 de Julio)
El Obelisco de Buenos Aires located in the Plaza de la República,
the intersection of Avenida 9 de Julio y Avenida Corrientes

The night was still young after swim practice. We (the swim team) went out for a drink after practice to a restaurant by the name of Kansas. I don't imagine that the state of Kansas is anything like this restaurant (basically a Bar and Grill, filled to the brim with people.) Despite the irony, this marks the first time I went out with Argentines! :)

Afterwards, I had a quick dinner and headed back to the Capital (which is what Argentine's say to refer to the city of Buenos Aires...remember, I reside in the province of Greater Buenos Aires.) We arrived late for a pub crawl (I didn't think you could ever arrive late to something in this country). Rather, we found a few places that we bounced between to chat and have drinks. It was a fun evening, but I'm still not sure how I feel about this "party all night deal." I do not wish to become nocturnal, and I figure I really have to pace myself. I was exhausted today after sleeping half the day away (in addition to a three-hour nap before dinner). Watching a movie with Daniel, Silvia, Sebas, and Will sapped a lot of my energy. Nevertheless, I would recommend Nueve Reinas to anyone who would like a good laugh.

I'm off to bed to get myself back into the swing of things.
¡Qué gocen del día de descanso!
Sueños dulces,
Matt

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Siempre hay algo que hacer

Today I had a long checklist of "firsts" in Argentina. I went to the doctor, danced my first Tango, and got a hair cut.

I needed a sports physical to participate in swimming here. I managed to find the doctor's office, with the help of a pharmacist, police officer and Google Maps. The entire process took about 40 minutes - light speed compared to other offices in Argentina.

Directly after that, I meandered to UdeSA to take my first Tango class. It's a free class offered by the school, and I started to learn the first steps of this typical Argentine dance. I'm no expert, but I did have fun. :)

Lastly, I got my hair cut. The barber was a good recommendation from Silvia and was extremely conversational and friendly, especially when I mentioned where I live. It helps to know people. I think he did a good job, too. You can see for yourself (although my webcam does not take the best quality shots.)

Before:


After:
Today was pleasantly warm (75-80ºF) and a nice change from the rain and dampness. I read for class in the garden in a T-shirt, shorts and sunglasses. Tomorrow, the forecast is 40-50ºF. So, you could say that this winter still has some spunk left.

¡Qué disfruten de la melodía del fin de semana!
Saludos,
Matt

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Las Cataratas de Iguazú: ¡Una maravilla inolvidable!



With only land, water, and time, Mother Nature has done an incredible job to form such a jaw-dropping world wonder. This past weekend, I went with Julia, Chris, and Will to the Iguazú Waterfalls on the Argentine/Brazilian border. The journey started Thursday evening, leaving from Retiro Bus Terminal in Buenos Aires. We opted for the first-class option, which included meals and a fully-reclining chair (which was more comfortable for sleep). I was really surprised when they offered whiskey and champagne during the trip. After the 16-hour ride, I could notice that the more "plush" ride was worth it.

We arrived mid-day Friday to our hostel, even lucking out by being chauffeured in a coach bus to our hostel in Puerto Iguazú, Argentina. It's hard to believe that our hostel was not a hotel...with the pool and its other amenities at such an affordable rate, it was a great deal! (Hostel Recommendation: Hostel-Inn Iguazu)

Since it was too late to go to Iguazú National Park (Parque Nacional), we crossed the street to an animal reserve called "Güíro Oga," which translates to "House of Birds" in the native indigenous language, Guaraní. Birds were the predominant animal on the tour (ranging from owls to falcons to toucans), but other animals included monkeys, fish, turtles, and other animals native to the Rain Forest that remain strange to me.
This Toucan Loved to Pose for the Camera

On day 2, Saturday, we were up for the main attraction, the creme of the crop, the primary reason why many people visit Iguazú: the Waterfalls (consisting of some 275 waterfalls). After booking an excursion and entering the park, we first took the Upper Trail (Paseo Superior), which provided a view of the falls from above. As we neared, I had anticipated a louder roar of the water. The tumbling rush of the water was not as aggressive as I would have thought, but my jaw dropped upon my first glance at the falls. It felt like the view only improved from every angle I peered...between taking photographs and taking in the sights, I needed a few moments to process what heavenly image was in front of me.

We continued onto the Lower Trail (Paseo Inferior), which provided a more hands-on experience...that meant getting wet. It was refreshing to step on the deck about twenty feet from one of the falls. The cool water took the edge off of the hot day, full of walking.
(Left to Right: Will, Julia, Matt, Chris)

As I was eye-level with the water, I started to look for a pot of gold. Complete rainbows were visible from the clouds of mist that sprayed off the cascading water. However, I did not find any gold.

Mist and rainbows were only the beginning of my experiences with the water. We also signed up for the Nautical Adventure, which consisted of riding in a boat underneath the falls (same concept as the Maid of the Mist at Niagara Falls)! It was soaking fun! We went under both ends of the falls, and there wasn't a dry square inch on me. My point-and-shoot camera even took one for the team as water rushed into the boat (during the photo opportunity portion.)
View from Boat

It took a while to dry off in the sun. We ate lunch and later hopped onto the train to take us to the Garganta del Diablo (Devil's Throat). The ride brought us around to access another vantage point of the waterfalls. There was a myriad of butterflies and bees present. :)
A Butterfly Even Landed on my Head
(I learned that they are attracted to the salt we perspire when we sweat.)
Do you see the "88" in the right butterfly's wings?
(That's why they call it the 88 butterfly!!)

By far, the Garganta del Diablo was the most humbling, striking, and impressive part. Fifty percent of the Upper Iguazú River (Río Iguazú Superior) empties relentlessly into the "Devil's Throat." There was a constant cloud of dense mist that did not permit me to see the crashing water at the bottom. The immensity of this portion of the falls gave me a new appreciation for nature. I stayed in one spot I liked and just watched this marvel, in awe of its beauty. I wanted to take in the moment and not allow it to end: the rapid rate of cascading water, the roar of millions of gallons of water, the refreshing spritzes carried by the breeze, and the entirety of this wonder. That concluded my experience of the Iguazú Falls. I enjoyed an asado (Argentine BBQ) at the hostel in the evening.
Garganta del Diablo


Sunday was certainly my most ambitious day of the trip. The night before, I was contemplating on doing a bike tour: option 1) a 50km (30mi) mountain bike challenge through the Iguazú National Park (5 hours), or option 2) a casual bike tour through a local indigenous reservation (2 hours). Despite my lack of regular exercise for the last half year, I felt gutsy and at 7:30am on Sunday opted for the 50km "Challenge of Iguazú National Park" (Desafío del Parque Nacional Iguazú). It was a quaint tour with two female marathon runners, the guide, and myself. The two ladies had just completed a marathon in Machu Picchu, Perú, up the Inca trail. Luckily (and to my surprise), I held my own. I had a severe love-hate relationship with gravity during this tour...downhill, we were best friends; uphill, not so much. The tour guide was very interactive and we stopped to look at the multitude of butterflies, ants, and snakes that we passed on the path. From a distance, I even got a view of the Garganta del Diablo.


Remember that my point-and-shoot camera took one for the team? Well, the lens did not work during this adventure. I was fortunate that another person on the tour had a camera that fit my memory card. Thus, I was able to snap a few photos on their camera, using my memory card. I was convinced that after 5.5 years, my camera was done for...however, my camera had other plans as the hazy lens cleared up in the evening. Although I was ready to accept the fact that my camera broke, I was relieved to know it didn't.

My "sore-ass" self and I returned back to the hostel. The final plan was to visit Hito. This is the meeting point of Paraguay, Brazil, and Argentina, divided by the Río Paraná (Paraná River). It was a great view, complemented by a restful sunset. I did not cross into Brazil or Paraguay for the reason that I would have needed a visa, that would have not been worth the hassle and costs for a quick visit.
Hito

Monday was time to go. The weekend's weather was a real treat (80's and sunny), and I wasn't up for chilly Buenos Aires. Also, this weekend, I crossed paths with a wide range of travelers...some who had plans of traveling throughout South America for several months. I find the hostel culture to be unique and light-hearted...lots of laughter, although I was disappointed when the universal language was English. Fortunately enough, I came across a few Germans, so I had the opportunity to utilize both Spanish and German.

I arrived this (Tuesday) morning at 7am (after another 16-hour luxurious bus ride), just in time for my appointment at the immigration office for my student visa. The process required some patience, much to be expected in Argentina. However, the paperwork is complete and I will have a visa in my passport in a matter of weeks as the officials finalize everything. I was running late for class, so my luggage and I went directly to UdeSA. I'm sure I made someone's day by schlepping a suitcase around campus all day. Considering that the sidewalks are rarely even, I applaud my suitcase for all the miles of various terrain it endured.

There are more pictures from the trip on my Facebook, if you would like to see some other images from the weekend.

¡Qué descansen!
Un abrazo,
Matt


Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Un lugar distinto

One big, happy Argentine Family!
(Front: Left - Flor, Majo, Julia
2nd Row: Left - Me (Matt), Silvia, Will (blue shirt), Chris (pink shirt), Sebas
3rd Row: Daniel)
I have never experienced a place like Argentina. Something about this country surprises me virtually everyday (sometimes good, sometimes not so good). Today that surprise was the costs of traveling in South America as an American. Several countries, including Brazil, Chile, and Argentina charge Americans (along with Canadians and Australians, I believe) a fee to enter the country. It is a passive aggressive method to counteract the costs that the citizens of Argentina, Chile, and Brazil must pay to travel to the United States. I understand the mentality, but it is also frustrating to have to experience it. You cannot say that this is like the European Union.

The amount of rain that has been falling today has made me wonder if it will ever stop? Winter is the rainy season in Argentina, it's not cold enough for snow. This shall eventually make way for a sunny spring and summer with some well nourished vegetation. Fortunately, I should add, no one seems depressed by the weather. Several Argentines struck up conversations with me today, always asking me where I'm from. (I think the accent is playing in my favor.) The topics are random, but I'm also learning quite a range of vocabulary...it was fun to look at my hand with the words I noted.

Lastly, I sat through 4 hours of lecture (with lunch in between) in my linguistics class, and it was so excited and interesting to understand EVERYTHING! I didn't expect to understand so much this early in the semester...I also hope I didn't just jynx myself for tomorrow...I'm just trying to keep this journey positive! Slowly, I'm getting into the swing of things here. Nevertheless, I'm sure there are quite a few surprises headed my way.

I only have three days of class (a total of 13 hours of class from Monday to Wednesday), so I look forward to the start of a long weekend!
¡Qué disfruten Uds. del tiempo en cualquier parte del mundo!
Saludos y un abrazo,
Matt

Sunday, August 12, 2012

¡Tigre!


Tigre Waterfront


Lately I have been searching for some independence in Argentina...not in a human rights sense, but more doing my own thing...flying solo, I suppose. All of my adventures (minus getting to campus and swim practice) have involved a group, which I have absolutely enjoyed. However, today gave me the chance to have some time to myself...a much needed break. The sun was shining and so was my mood! Silvia and Daniel suggested I check out Tigre, a precious coastal area in Greater Buenos Aires, where you can also find the Partido de Tigre soccer team and the mouth of the Rio de la Plata (the river that divides Argentina and Uruguay). The weekend festivities included a diverse market of food and nick-nacks for purchase, a Casino (I did not gamble), an amusement park, a handful of museums, and a long promenade to take in majestic views of the boats and the waterfront. Overall, I walked around for 5 hours, and it was relaxing and energizing for my spirits. By the time we had dinner at 10pm, I was kaputt. It was just the day of rest that was necessary.

Me at the Market (right on the water)

Street in Tigre

Tigre Center, near train station


Tigre Art Museum (It's even more jaw-dropping inside)

Tomorrow I start my regular week of classes. I have selected 3 courses: 1) "Gender: Society, Politics, and Literature" (Género: Sociedad, Política y Literatura) 2)"Introduction to Linguistics" (Introducción a la lingüística) 3) "Your Culture Notes through Argentine Media" (Tus notas culturales por medios argentinos). As of now, I have class from Monday to Wednesday. That may be switched around a bit because I don't know when I will have tutorials (an additional discussion course that is required). It's all about being flexible and ready for anything here.

On another note, as a person who loves laundry, I laugh that I do not really know when I can wash my clothes (we do not use a dryer, and there is limited space to dry clothes inside especially when it rains several times a week like it has recently)...luckily I have enough to last for a while.


A cool water fountain at the Market area
This "don't pee on me" sign says "Don't piss on me, I'm growing."

¡Qué tengan Uds. una buena semana!
Buenas noches,
Matt

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Los Juegos Olímpicos

It is ironic to watch the 2012 London Summer Olympic Games from Argentina since it is winter in the southern hemisphere. Today in Buenos Aires is a good example of typical London weather - gray and rainy, yet it's sunny and hot in London. I think Mother Nature got the weather patterns confused or something, although it's more pleasant for the athletes to compete, and I do have the comfort of watching inside.

Nevertheless, it has been an extraordinary experience to watch the Olympic Games from abroad. I do love the Olympics...I look forward to them every 2 years...although I'm especially partial to the Summer Games. From the time I arrived and saw the opening ceremonies, Argentina has taken great pride in their Olympic athletes. There are several television channels that broadcast the events live around the clock. Here one can watch the different events starting at 4am (due to the 4-hour time difference). They take priority in presenting the Argentine athletes competing. However, since their team is not a small army, most of the time the programming covers the main events going on in the present moment. Following the conclusion of the day's events, the channel continues to replay the events, cover the highlights, and interview some of the athletes. Often times, the station will jump from one sport to the next and return to show the results. I have learned quite a bit from the sports broadcasters, who are very informed about the sports and the athletes representing each country as they describe what's happening to the audience. EVERY sport is aired, ranging from handball and swimming, to rhythmic gymnastics and diving. It has been a pleasure to watch such a wide variety of sports; I never realized there were that many, such as men's field hockey. Speed walking, track and field, and swimming have been my favorites of this Olympic Games. Tomorrow evening will finish this celebration of athletics with the closing ceremonies. I look forward to see what London has in store to conclude such a unique event in which the world peacefully gathers to watch and celebrate the world's greatest athletes.

I found this link at BBC ( http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/olympics/2012/medals/athletes ), displaying the medal count for each athlete. For the third Olympics in a row, Michael Phelps stands at the top of the chart with 4 golds and 2 silvers. The top 10 athletes are all swimmers, 8 of them American. I can say that the US did a splendid job, collecting more medals in one Olympics than Argentina has collected in its history of participating in the Olympics (around 70 Olympic medals). Congratulations to all the athletes!

Fun fact: Juegos Olímpicos a great example of a Spanish language idiosyncrasy used to abbreviate the plural form. If the term is a plural (for example: United States, Olympic Games, International Relations), you dupiclate the initials...Estados Unidos = EE.UU.; Juegos Olímpicos: JJ.OO; Relaciones internationales: RR.II. I'm not sure why is it this way, it just is.

¡Mirá los Juegos Olímpicos antes de que terminen!
Buenas tardes,
Matt

¿Todo bien...tranquilo?

The past two weeks have flown by and stood still at the same time. I would like to concentrate this post on the milestones and highlights of the extravaganza so far: 

- I have noticed an improvement in my Spanish, as I'm slowing adjusting to the Argentine style of Spanish...particularly their slang, which they call "Lunfardo". (At times, I feel like they have more Italian-like mannerisms and gestures than Spanish. Daniel and Silvia have also noted that Argentines are Italians who speak Spanish.)

- It feels great to be better acquainted to the local area of San Isidro, UdeSA, and some of Buenos Aires. I recognize street names and actually remember what they look like. I can give directions and also navegate my way.

- I'm learning the (chaotic) game known as public transportation. I consider it a game because between the strikes (this week on the subway), the lack of a timetable/schedule, and some bus drivers who choose to ignore the individual(s) signalling to be picked up, you get to your destination when you (eventually) arrive. 

- I have truly enjoyed my experiences of getting to know the Argentines. They are very friendly and curious, which has convinced me that they are interested in getting to know me. They are very affectionate and warm people. Here, you greet everyone with a kiss on the cheek, and usually accompanied with a handshake or hug...talk about spreading the love. They also do not take anything personally, so I appreciate hearing people share their opinion because it's what they think...I'll respect your thoughts if you respect mine. Also, conversations don't seem to stop as the topic may change from movies to politics to tipping policies in a matter of two minutes. That is the course of a typical Argentine discussion in my experience. I should also mention that they always ask if everything is okay...or in their words "¿Todo bien? ¿Tranquilo?". I've noticed those phrases have also trickled into my vocabulary too...they are essential to sound Argentine.

- I am happy to be reunited with the water. I started swimming this week, which has been a highlight! I find the practices to be more socially than physically demanding. Swimming is the part that comes naturally to me, speaking and conversing in Spanish is not yet second nature. My teammates are willing to take the time to explain the sets in Spanish, so that I acquire the necessary vocabulary to understand. Now that we covered the basics, we have moved on to more Lunfardo (the slang of Buenos Aires). 

My experience at the Universidad de San Andrés, although limited so far, has been pleasant. Students have a different mentality, in which they do not live the "American" college experience. Many still reside at home as they pursue their studies locally to lower costs. Campus life offers sports and interactive, informative lectures and dance classes during lunch (a 90-minute block), but most of the social life takes place off-campus. Socializing varies from the US in that everything takes place about 3-4 hours later...for example, in the US, you leave to go to a club earliest around 11pm, in Argentina, you don't bother to show up until 2am. This has required a large adjustment on my part. It's quite taxing (to me) to return home around 6am and sleep the first half of the day. Nevertheless, I can promise you that the Argentines know how to have fun.

Another surprise has been the wide range of costs differences between here and the US. In Argentina, clothes, food, and other necessities are priced much higher than in the US, despite the exchange rate that heavily favors the American dollar. Other items, such as cigarettes, gasoline, and public transportation are extremely inexpensive. Transportation is heavily subsidized by the government, so it costs me less than $1US (roughly 76¢) to travel roundtrip into Buenos Aires for the day.

Things are much different here, but in some aspects I can appreciate their way of doing things, and in other instances, I just don't get it (yet). This experience comes with the territory of studying abroad, and honestly, it is so much fun for me. I couldn't be happier to be off to such a great start.

¡Qué disfruten Uds. del fin de semana!
Hasta luego,
Matt

Also, congratulations to Argentina on earning 3 Olympic medals (gold in Taekwondo, silver in women's field hockey, and bronze in yachting), bringing their total to 4 medals in London. Although a humble amount compared to the US's current 94 medals and China's 81, the media has continually praised these athletes. It's nice to see such an accomplish be dutifully recognized.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Me canso mucho...

I am exhausted! Paying attention in class feels like being a sniper, waiting for hours to strike its target yet still aware of their entire surroundings...maybe not that extreme since I didn't even kill a fly today. Classes went well. I'm still in the middle of "shopping week," a fun way to describe course selection. Professors have been simply introducing the courses as students have been trickling in late. I was one of those as I tried to find the right classroom. They changed the location to another building for that single class session.

After two classes, all I could do was nap. I woke up in the middle of a dream in German, so I thought someone nearby on the phone was speaking it. Turns out my brain is starting to play tricks on me. It's strange because I feel like my brain is going through an overdose of Spanish. There are going to be those frustrating moments, from which I can learn. My goal for tomorrow is to keep on pushing to learn more Spanish (or like Dori, just keep swimming)!

Today has been the 4th day of a strike for public transportation (subway) workers. They are quite frequent in Argentina, so it just causes chaos as people try to commute in and out of Buenos Aires. I'm not exactly sure what their reasons are, but I hope they resolve it soon! 

Public transportation in Argentina really has a mind of its own. I have yet to find a bus or train schedule, informing me when I can expect to be picked up by either...in reality, it's a crapshoot and sometimes a waiting game. Patience has been my best friend in this sense. Also, there were two trains that de-railed (descarrilamiento) off the tracks on the railline that I take to Buenos Aires. I decided I'm going to stick to the bus for a while after Daniel and Silvia said that around 50 people died in train accidents last year alone. The tracks are old and cannot handle the trains.  

It's raining buckets (cats and dogs) tonight, so I will be dozing off to the heavy patter of rain, safely and soundly.

¡Qué descansen!

Buenas noches,
Matt

Monday, August 6, 2012

El primer día no es fácil

The first day of my Argentine semester was a much anticipated 24 hours. I woke up and conquered the day. Honestly, I wish it was that simple. However, I can say I made it through the day with a smile.

The registration process was surprisingly archaic. For nearly an hour, I waited in line at the Office of Students. The Argentine students were not afraid to call out anyone who attempted to cut the line. I stayed in my spot and impatiently waited as the registrar arrived fifteen minutes late. He called us in, and basically I told him the courses I wanted and he wrote it down on a piece of paper with my name next to it. I really expected that a computer would be used at some point in the process. My schedule will not be finalized until next week, as this is a trial week for the students to try, drop, and/or select other courses. This process of class selection and registration moves at a much slower pace here. Can you tell I´m from the Northeast of the US?
 
I ran a few errands before heading to my first class in Argentina at 2pm. It is a 3 1/2 hour seminar course called "Género, Sociedad y Literatura y Política." (Gender, Society, Literature, and Politics) It was the introductory class, but surprisingly I understood an extensive amount of the lecture. It basically presents the study of gender from the perspectives of history, law, literature, and humanities through presentation of different professors from various disciplines. There is a main professor, who we met today, but there are 8 different professors contributing to the course. I look forward to learning more from this interdisciplinary approach. I anticipate the different presentations from a diverse group of instructors will make the course interesting, yet it´s a relief to know that I will also have a week to contemplate which courses I ultimately wish to choose.

Directly from campus, I went to swim practice. The Argentines love to use the word "tranquilo" (for quiet or calm). I'm not sure if I come off as an extremely Type-A personality, or it's just a saying that they use. Either way it felt great to be back in the water. Practice was very "tranquilo" and enjoyable. Everyone from UdeSA has been very nice.

By the time dinner came, I could hardly speak properly. I was cutting my food and flicked ketch-up on my sweatshirt. It took everyone at the time a few seconds to realize it looked like I had stabbed myself. Shortly after, Daniel and Majo got dessert on themselves as they prepared to serve the flan. It was a good laugh for all, but the fatigue is setting in after a long day. For the sake of tomorrow, I'm off to bed. I finish class at 12:30, but I'm not sure what I'll do since the subway workers went on strike today...traveling into Buenos Aires will be madness.

¡Qué aprendan Uds. algo nuevo mañana y pasen un día muy tranquilo!
Saludos,
Matt

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Los planes cambian en 5 minutos

Here, my plans do not seem to go as I originally plan. Although I don't do what I hope to on a designated day, each day has provided a nice amount of enriching and light-hearted experiences. It's a good lesson for me to go with the flow. Today, I watched one of Argentina's national pastimes: Field Hockey. Although this sport is reserved for females in the US, Argentina (like most of the world) has teams for both men and women. Sebas invited us to cheer on his girlfriend, Flor...they won 20-0. Apparently her team is not on a winning streak, so they said we (Julia, Chris, Will, and myself) brought the team good luck.
Speaking of field hockey, the Argentine women's field hockey team (Las Leonas) is among the best at the Olympics. Argentina earned its first Olympic medal today in Men's Tennis (Singles). J.M. Del Potro won bronze.

Later in the afternoon, I went to the movies at the UniCenter (the gigantic mall that I visited last Sunday) with Majo. We watched an Argentinian film, "Atraco." It was a dramatic comedy that had the audience laughing at times and sitting on the edge of their seats at others. My greatest accomplish was comprehending more than 90% of the movie. I would recommend it to anyone that can understand Argentine Spanish.
Chipacitos, my movie time snack, which is warm cheese bread!

This evening, my Argentine family has all arrived home. Flor (another Flor, not Sebas' girlfriend), a student from North Argentina, arrived today. She studies at UdeSA as well. We enjoyed empanadas (with meat and spinach) for dinner. Following that, I started to make a potential schedule for this semester. I like the one that I have made for myself...but I'll have to wait and see, considering how plans play out in this country.

¡A un fin de semana divertido!
Hasta pronto,
Matt

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Casa del Gobierno: The Pink House



I think Argentina lives for the weekend. It has been emphasized to me by both UdeSA and my Argentina family to work hard from Monday to Friday, but Saturday and Sunday are another way to say fun and relaxation. It's currently midnight on a Saturday night, and we have yet to go out for the evening. The night scene doesn't really pick up until after 2am. This has certainly been my biggest culture shock thus far.

Friday was an early start. My exchange group had an appointment at 7am for the background check portion of our student visas. We covered some other general information back at campus following that. By the time we got back home, Silvia went to the airport to pick up Majo, my Argentine sister. I had the opportunity to meet both Majo and Silvia's mom in the same day as we enjoyed an asado when everyone was home that facilitated some fun conversation. All that food and waking up early made me tired by 4pm, so I napped before Sebas (Argentine brother) and Majo had their friends come over for dinner. Sebas made homemade thin-crust pizza for a group of 15. Everyone was very welcoming and inquisitive to hear about our (us exchange students) home countries and our impressions of Argentina.

Today (Saturday) was my second trip to Buenos Aires. We arrived at 4pm after a late evening, but the city does not seem to sleep. I was informed that there is always something going on in Buenos Aires, which I can second that statement. Chris, Julia, Will and myself completed a portion of the main tourism sector of the city today by going to the Plaza de Mayo. Here you can find the some of the main streets in the capital with shops, museums, theaters, and cafés. There is a lot of history in this area, of which I must acquire more information. It springs from the early 1800s, where Argentina had its first meetings to fight for independence from Spain around 1810. Where the President resides (a main government building) is located at this Plaza and plays a similar role to the White House in Washington, D.C...but the Argentine President's house is PINK! Argentina is not afraid to flaunt a little color. We got quite lucky because we had the opportunity to take a (FREE) tour of the President's house. This mansion boasts many portraits and photographs to recognize a myriad of former and current Argentine figures, especially athletes and political figures like Maradona (soccer legend) and Evita Perón. The tour concluded with a peek into the President's (Cristina Fernández de Kirchner) office...I will just say that it was opulently luxurious...so I would not cry for her, Argentina. During the evening, the building is illuminated by pink flood lights. By the time we finished the tour, it was pretty much dark outside, so we headed back to San Isidro. The lights, sounds, and smells can be a sensory shock, but it was an refreshing walk back to the train.

Inside the Government's Pink House
President's Office
Buenos Aires by night

The weather has been a constant reminder that it is still winter here. I think forward to warmer days, and I have hope that Sunday will bring some sun with it! My semester starts on Monday, so that shall be quite the experience.

¡Feliz domingo!
Saludos,
Matt

P.S. I posted a picture of my vocabulary on my left hand on the previous entry.